From left, the Rev. Claire Repsholdt of Lutheran Church of...

From left, the Rev. Claire Repsholdt of Lutheran Church of Our Savior, the Rev. Henrietta Scott Fullard of the Long Island District of African Methodist Episcopal Churches, and Rabbi Lina Zerbarini of Kehillath Shalom Synagogue. Credit: Claire Repsholdt; African Methodist Episcopal Churches; Dinah Mark

In the new year, Americans are resolving to exercise more, eat a healthier diet and lose weight, according to the annual Statista Global Consumer Survey. This week’s religious leaders suggest resolutions that focus on spiritual goals as well.

The Rev. Henrietta Scott Fullard

Presiding elder (retired), Long Island District, African Methodist Episcopal Churches

As our nation slowly emerges from a time of affliction, we must resolve to rededicate ourselves to hope and the belief that a brighter day is coming this year.

In II Corinthians 4:17, Paul the Apostle writes in an epistle, “For our light affliction which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” In other words, Paul is saying that our worst earthly suffering is trivial and transient compared with the eternal glory with God that is to come. And Paul writes this despite the brutal treatment he received on his mission to spread the teachings of Jesus.

Believing that a brighter day is coming relieves us of past and present tensions as we prepare to walk in victory in this new year and receive the promises of God. This is a moment to allow ourselves to get into the presence of the Lord with new faith and make our wishes known. We can see this year’s sunshine on our dull moments. Many things can cause us to lose hope, but we should never give up our hope of brighter days ahead.

The Rev. Claire Repsholdt

Pastor, Lutheran Church of Our Savior, Patchogue

It’s tempting to set ambitious New Year’s resolutions: new diets, new investments, new friendship goals. There’s no harm in trying, but in matters of faith new isn’t always better. God doesn’t measure love in years. God loves you exactly as you are today! God wishes to embrace you in grace and forgiveness right now.

This year, rather than resolving something new, what if you relish that God is with you already? For Lutherans, the new church year actually begins a little before the new calendar year, with Advent, the season of preparation for Christmas. In Advent, we greet the new year by practicing some of the oldest Christian traditions. We make wreaths, sing carols and light candles. We tell our favorite bedtime story: that God created a son to save us from our sins, and his name is Immanuel, which means “God is with us.”

Whether we stand at the beginning of a new church year or a new calendar year, the same wisdom applies. We can grow in faith simply by noticing God is with us in the old traditions of every day — in every sunrise, every candle lit, every low and every high tide.  

Rabbi Lina Zerbarini

Kehillath Shalom Synagogue, Cold Spring Harbor

The prayer of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav, Ukraine (1772-1810), offers a daily (not yearly) suggestion: “May it be my custom to go outdoors each day among the trees and grass — among all growing things and there may I be alone, and enter into prayer, to talk with the One to whom I belong.”

Connecting to nature, to our hearts and to the transcendent is less a New Year’s resolution than a daily opportunity. Stepping into our backyards and looking closely at the grass and wildflowers, taking in the moon and stars at night, breathing in the winter air: each is a chance to remember our place in the universe.

As a community, Kehillath Shalom Synagogue takes regular meditation walks at Target Rock National Wildlife Refuge in Lloyd Harbor, walking in silence and noticing the landscape as the seasons change. When our bodies and souls are united, and we are conscious of being a part of the natural world around us, we are wiser and more whole. All of our relationships, and our entire lives, will be the better for this practice.

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